‘When Calls the Heart’ Cast on ‘Heartbreaking’ Moment Nathan Admits He’s in Love With Elizabeth (Exclusive)

Erin Krakow, Kevin McGarry and Chris McNally react to the 'heartbreaking' moment Nathan reveals he's in love with Elizabeth.

Mountie Nathan Grant is officially wearing his heart on his sleeve.

At the close of Sunday’s episode of When Calls the Heart, the once-timid gentleman-in-uniform professed his feelings for Elizabeth Thornton -- leaving the school teacher and viewers alike stunned.  Not only did Nathan admit he’s “in love” with Elizabeth, he also vowed to quit his job as a Mountie to ensure Elizabeth would never lose him the same way she lost her late husband, Jack Thornton.

ET spoke with stars Erin Krakow and Kevin McGarry about filming the emotional scene, as well as Chris McNally (who plays fellow suitor Lucas Bouchard), to gain insight on his character’s perspective as well.

“That scene was day one,” McGarry explains of his return to the WCTH set last year to start filming season 8. “It was certainly [Krakow and my] first scene back together.”

The Toronto native tells ET it was quite a way to kick off the season, filming such an emotionally-demanding scene at level “10, 11 -- it was the climax of the episode!” 

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The pair also reveal that they didn’t isolate from each other that day, prior to filming the scene -- a strategy some actors use to save their emotion for when the cameras are rolling. McGarry says, “I’ve had scenes like that in the past where you kind of like to be on your own before you're about to do a scene with a partner. [This one with Erin] didn't really ask for it, for me, because I just had to be like, ‘Here’s my heart,’ so distancing myself from Erin at the beginning would not have helped me at all. If anything, I’m just trying to see [Erin] again and get back in the rhythm.”  Instead, McGarry says his biggest challenge was striking the right tone between Nathan and Elizabeth. “We were trying to find the right level because we didn't want to go too over the top, and we didn't want to make it too cool at the same time because it's a journey,” he conveys before adding, “It was pretty intense.”  

For Krakow, she echoes McGarry’s sentiments, explaining, “I’ve certainly done scenes over the years where it felt like it was useful to just take a little space to myself [before filming], but no, in this case, I think Kevin and I discussed the scene and what we wanted to get out of it.” The Juilliard School graduate also tells ET that it was a challenging scene to film, not necessarily because of the content, but because of the weather that day.

"We were just sitting in a tent together, trying to avoid the heat and the mosquitoes that were swarming us by the pond," Krakow recalls. "We were even trying to get that scene out between airplanes flying overhead. There were some elements that were stacked against us a bit, but no, I think we discussed it, we spent the time together and it's a very heartbreaking scene.”

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McNally, who does not appear in the scene, chimes in to share that when he read Nathan and Elizabeth’s lines in the script, he thought to himself, “Oh man, that’s intense!” He hilariously adds this comparison: “I imagined Nathan being Sean Penn in Mystic River but instead of saying, ‘Is that my daughter?’ he’s there saying, ‘I love you!’"

McGarry delivers a quick-witted reply: “I think Nathan is the Sean Penn of Hope Valley!” 

After Nathan’s powerful admission, Elizabeth has a visceral reaction which Krakow sheds lights on. “I think there's a line in the scene, something like, ‘If I stay, it'll only make things harder,’ and I think that was probably the mantra that was running through her head. That sense of, ‘This is an impossible situation -- I'm just trying to follow my heart, my gut here, and make a decision, and and you are making it impossible,’” she explains of Elizabeth’s mindset in that moment. Krakow continues, “I think the goal there really was to just extricate herself, and even when I was sitting up on that horse and Kevin cried out the way he did, it was just heartbreaking. He did such a great job, and thankfully we were able to get the horse to cooperate.”

Hearties know this was a major moment for the character of Nathan, who, over the last two seasons, has slowly built up the courage to share his feelings in an effort to court Elizabeth. McGarry says that, like the Hearties, he too was surprised by his character dropping the l-word.

“I remember reading the first two [episodes] and I was like, ‘Wow, this is very out of his character, but it goes back to that point where his life kind of changed a bit at the end of season 7, where he’s really kind of re-organizing his priorities of what he wants and what he’s willing to give up to get it,” McGarry explains before adding, “It did make sense, it just did not go the way I think that he wanted it to go.” 

Team Nathan fans of the long-running Hallmark Channel series will have to sit tight as the remaining 10 episodes of season 8 unfold. And if you’re on Team Lucas, and wondering what the saloon-owner has up his sleeve this season, McNally offers a tease.

“I think the stakes are a lot higher in season 8, rather than flowers being the biggest gesture that we saw in season 7, it moves to a date or physical contact: a hand on a hand, something like that,” the actor says, highlighting some of the tender moments shown in the season 8 trailer. “There's a few moments, a few events that Lucas tries to orchestrate and… you see Lucas open up a little bit and show a bit of a sense of vulnerability that you maybe haven't seen before.”

When Calls the Heart airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Hallmark Channel.